Effective immediately, Lee County Public Fishing Lake will be closed for approximately 20 months while the lake is drained, improved, refilled and restocked. After providing excellent fishing in the Auburn, Opelika, and Phenix City area for almost 40 years, the large number of small largemouth bass has caused fishing quality to decrease.
Lee County Public Fishing Lake is one of 23 lakes managed by the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF). Fishing quality in Alabama’s State Public Fishing Lakes exceeds the harvest rate in Alabama’s large public reservoirs when comparing the number of fish caught per hour, the weight of fish caught per hour, or the pounds of fish harvested per acre. The secret to the success of the Alabama State Public Fishing Lake program is built upon the pond research conducted at Auburn University beginning in the 1930s under Dr. Homer Swingle and Dr. E. V. Smith.
Ponds are an artificial aquatic habitat. Research, which included trial and error, was used to determine the types of fish that sustain the best freshwater sport fishing. Ponds with the highest angler satisfaction rate contain a combination of largemouth bass and bream, both bluegill and redear sunfish (shellcracker). Limited numbers of channel catfish may be added to increase angler satisfaction. The number and growth of all these fish are increased with a fertilization program. Though larger than farm ponds, Alabama’s State Public Fishing Lakes have been successfully managed for decades to provide optimum sport fishing.
Lee County Public Fishing Lake began to experience a decline in fishing quality in recent years. Anglers using the lake were unsuccessful at harvesting enough largemouth bass from the lake or were unwilling to harvest them. Largemouth bass are highly efficient predators. At Lee County Public Fishing Lake, largemouth bass reduced the number of bream that many of the anglers were hoping to catch, and the result was poor fishing due to a crowded bass population.
Jack Turner, WFF State Lakes Coordinator, encourages anglers to keep the bass they catch when the park re-opens. "We want to avoid over-population by bass, and angler harvest would be very helpful to us. Not only does bass harvest help the bream fishing, but it actually helps the bass fishing as well,” Turner said. “When bass are harvested, more food will be available to the remaining bass, so they can grow to a larger size. There's another good reason for anglers to take their bass home -- they're delicious. There's not much that tastes better than a fried bass fillet."
If the bottom of the Lee County Public Fishing Lake dries in a timely manner, physical improvements can be made to the lake. Shallow areas around the bank will be deepened and several earthen piers constructed so anglers can enjoy better access to deeper water and catch more bass. Fish attractors, such as piles of brush and gravel beds, may also be added. Repairs to the support structure for the existing piers will be made.
Anglers will have to wait about a year and a half until June 2013 to fish at Lee County Public Fishing Lake again, but it will be well worth the wait. Some of the best fishing in ponds and lakes occurs three to seven years after draining and restocking. Until then, anglers looking for a great place to fish will still have Chambers County Public Fishing Lake near Lafayette, which is a half hour from Lee. Barbour County Public Fishing Lake is about an hour and 20 minutes straight south of Lee County Public Fishing Lake, near Midway. If you have questions about the operations at any of these lakes, please contact Ken Weathers or Rob Andress at (334) 347-9467, or Jack Turner at (334) 242-3471.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.OutdoorAlabama.com.